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How Businesses Use Pinterest Wrong

Penned by Paul Wilson

The term “FAIL” has become the Internet’s popular way of stating that you have epically screwed-up. From Twitter’s fail whale to the FailBlog we see example after example of how people are failing, not-so-gracefully, on the web and in life.

With Pinterest storming the scene it was only a matter of time before a certain person with an outstretched and condemning finger derived a term that showcased how people and businesses fail at pinning. Yes, that arrogant and condescending person, who you love to hate, has arrived and since you have acknowledged my greatness I hereby deem all pin failures as UnPins!

Truthfully, I don’t delight in others failures, but it does help me understand what Pinterest is and is not. So, instead of calling me a hater or a person full of scorn, I would rather be viewed as someone who delights thoroughly in his research.

For you to receive an UnPin honor your pin has to seriously go against the culture of Pinterest. Pinterest defines their culture on their About page as, “… organiz[ing] and shar[ing] all the beautiful things you find on the web.”

Beauty is in the eye of the pinner, and therefore I feel it takes something more than ugliness to be considered an UnPin. Rather an UnPin is a pin that is clueless to why it is on Pinterest. Not having a clue is extremely hard to quantify, so let me instead give some examples.

The best way to find an UnPin is to search out businesses on Pinterest. Businesses offer a multitude of examples of UnPins, since they are there for more diabolical reasons—to get you to spend your hard earned money. Not that this is bad, but a lot of businesses become blinded by your shiny coins and they forget to act like they want to give you beautiful and pretty things. This being the case, I might dare say that some businesses should even be awarded with an UnBoard or an UnProfile.

Take for example this pin from a chiropractor (all UnPins edited to protect the guilty):


Honestly, I expect to see this in a Thrifty Nickel newspaper not on a website that touts to be the place to “share all the beautiful things.”

A better way the chiropractor could have pinned his or her practice is through a visual infographic such as this:

This is just a small snippet of a larger graphic that shows how you should correct your posture. Both the UnPin and Pin promoted chiropractors, but the latter one did it tastefully and with Pinterest flare.

Another great example of an UnPin is this pin:


This pin is trying to sell a commercial size freezer, and to me screams Craigslist (I wouldn’t be surprised if they pinned it from there). Craigslist seems to be the antithesis of Pinterest. The design of both sites proves this point. In fact, I think Craig himself is proud of how ugly his site is.

Pinterest is not a place for businesses or individuals to blatantly and shamelessly advertise their products. You can and should showcase how beautiful your products are, which is done all over Pinterest.

A better example is this pin that actually shows you a refrigerator:

Now I agree that this pin is extremely innovative (the green goo actually holds and keeps your food cold), and not every business can take advantage of an innovative product. However, it’s still possible to advertise an average product on Pinterest without coming across as a Craigslist ad.

FleeceFun.com does a great job of this by showing their Halloween Hat Pack.

Notice how they promote their website and products, but yet. . . it’s, it’s beautiful. Well, at least 4,000 Pinterest users who repinned it think so.

The final UnPin I’m going to share has to be my favorite:


Yes, that is a pin of a 1977 Lincoln coupe being sold for almost $5,000. It surprises me how people use Pinterest with a used car dealership mentality, “Everything, Goes, Goes, Goes.”

The people at Volkswagen did it right when they pinned this stunning little bug:

It is unique and makes the viewer want to learn more about why they created a car this way. However, again this pin is not a fair comparison because it doesn’t use price in the pin (like the Lincoln coupe did).

You can still get away with showing the price and not sacrifice beauty. Obviously, Pinterest has a Gift category where everyone can see the price banner, but I think it is more tasteful to have the price in the design.

Made by Mazipan does this well with their Baby Snugg Boot Pattern shown here:

They easily got around Pinterest’s price banner by showing their price of $4.50 in the first step. Personally, I think this is far better alternative, since you are in control of how you want the priced displayed.

As you can see, there is a right way and a very wrong way to pin. I am certain that if you engage in Pinterest for any length of time you will come across more UnPins. Please don’t be stingy and share them in the comments below. Again, this isn’t to point and make fun, but rather to participate in serious academic research on the art of pinning =).